To My Valentine: So Much More than All Right

Lovely Pasture
Part of the view from our bedroom of the pasture.

As the sun makes its way over the horizon, the dew shimmers in the pasture below. I look beyond the balcony and watch the horses graze and see a couple of deer frolicking in the distance. I then make my way into the bathroom and start brushing my teeth, completely unmoved by what I had just seen.

When you live every day in the presence of something that is exceptional, you grow accustomed to it. Intellectually, you appreciate it, but it ceases to move you as it once did.

It doesn’t have to be the case, though. There is a way to avoid this pitfall, and I use it regularly. And since you and I are pretty tight, I would be more than happy to share with you the trick I employ to ensure that I am regularly entranced…by my wife.

Pretty Nicole Cropped
See! I told you she was pretty! This is pre-kids.

My wife, Nicole, is beautiful. And by beautiful, I mean stunning. She’s the kind of pretty where she can walk into a room full of people and 50% of the guys turn and say to the other 50% of the guys, “Who is THAT?!” Then they sheepishly look over their shoulders to make sure their wives didn’t hear them.

And what’s even more amazing is that after 7 and a half years of marriage and two kids, she continues to get even prettier! I’m not just saying that to be nice, either. It’s the truth. If I was a rapper (and I most definitely am not) I would frequently liken her to fine wine. You know, the whole “better with time” sort of thing.

Do I catch a dubious glint in your eye? “That’s very sweet of you, Brian. It’s Valentine’s Day and you’re supposed to say things like that.”

“Besides, you’re just some tall, lanky guy who stands with his toes pointing outwards, looking kind of goofy. In fact, your high school basketball coach, Coach Jenkins (you remember…the weird muscular one who had 19 inch arms, but insisted on wearing shirts sized to fit a small girl, so he had to cut the sleeves to maintain circulation beyond his shoulders, and everyone said he was a male stripper at the very classy “La-Bare”) used to affectionately call you “String Bean”.”

“How would you ever manage to catch a babe like that?”

Well, now you’re getting plain rude! And thanks a lot for reminding me about Coach Jenkins! Eeeesh!

Truth be told, I have no idea. But evidently she saw something in me that made her think she was “landing the big tuna”. (I just learned that phrase yesterday and figured if I didn’t use it now, I’d never get to.)

This past Christmas, looking as pretty as ever, she is sporting her white elephant spoils.
This past Christmas, looking as pretty as ever, she is sporting her white elephant spoils.

She even says that after dating me for only 2 weeks, she knew she was going to marry me. They say love is blind, so maybe that played into the equation.

But I don’t spend too much time wondering how I got her. I’m just thrilled that I did! Oh yeah, I was going to teach you my little trick.

When we get to go out in public together, which happens pretty rarely now since we have two young kids, this is what I do. It works really well at malls or large department stores.

When she goes off to look at something on her own, I know she is most likely going to eventually return. Assuming that, as I am looking at clothes, or other wares, I keep looking out for her in the distance, among the other people in the store.

I then perform some sort of odd mental gymnastics and put myself in someone else’s shoes. I am then some stranger, who happens to be shopping at that place and time.

As I lift my head and look in the distance, I catch a glimpse of blonde hair, slightly above the heads of the others in the women’s shoe section.

“That’s pretty hair,” I think. I then follow some very complex logic only a male would be capable of and deduce that pretty, blonde hair is typically on top of a pretty lady. So naturally, I continue following the hair with my eyes.

She continues walking perpendicularly to me, blocked from my view. At the end of the display, she turns, comes into full view and BAM! “Who is THAT?!” I whisper. And she knocks me off my feet all over again.

This trick may or may not work for you. But it’s worth a shot. If you have someone as spectacular as I do, anything that helps you continually appreciate him or her is priceless.

So here’s to my beautiful Valentine: Happy Valentine’s Day, Nicole! Thank you for being the best wife, mom, business partner, and companion I could have ever asked for. I love you like crazy and hope that you always feel loved by me. And did I mention….you sure are pretty!

P.S. This is the song that inspired the title, and it pretty accurately conveys how blessed I feel.

How are you going to make your Valentine feel special today?

The 4 Year-Old Theologian

Handsome Super Man

Do you know if “napping” is an actual spiritual gift? If it is, it would make sense. I mean…I am really good at it. And one’s passions and gifts are often aligned. You just try asking me about naps. My face will light up with joy as the discussion of one of life’s legitimate pleasures commences!

I plan on doing some research on it, starting by reading through the New Testament and writing down all of the passages where naps are mentioned. Then I’ll grab the concordance and do a word study, going through every instance where the word “pancake” is used. Based on my experience today, if that food is referenced, then “nap”, “napping”, “will soon nap”, “hath nappeth”, or some other conjugation of the Greek verb “nappos” will be right around the corner.

This afternoon at 3:30, Thatcher and I had just gotten up from our very pleasant Sunday afternoon nap. Nicole was out grocery shopping and we were relaxing and gradually waking up on the couch, he with his Ipad, and me with my Kindle. My brother, Allen, had just sent me a link to an individual’s web site and recommended I check it out. I was reading an article* he had written about his own conversion when this conversation between Thatcher and me took place.

Warning: The text of this conversation has not been altered in any way to protect the ignorant (me) or the innocent (Thatcher). This is exactly as it took place.

“Daddy, do you want to play one of these games?” Thatcher said as he looked up from his Ipad.

“Not right now, tiger. I’m reading an article in a magazine (on my kindle).”

Thatcher: “What’s an article?”

Me: “It’s like a story in a magazine.”

Thatcher: “I don’t like magazines, do I?”

Me: “Well, this is a story for adults. It’s about how a man became a Christian.”

Thatcher: “What’s a Christian?”

Me: “It’s a person who has dedicated their lives to Jesus.”

Thatcher: “Do I have it?”

Me: “Do you love Jesus?”

Thatcher: “I do.”

Me: “He loves you too.”

Thatcher: “But I don’t want to go to heaven. Do you Daddy?”

Me: “Yes, but not now. Right now, I’m here with you guys.” Daddy and Thatcher fist-bump.

Thatcher: “When, Daddy.”

Me: “That’s not for me to decide.”

Thatcher: “Who does then?”

Me: “God.”

Thatcher got pensive as he processed and then goes back to playing his Frisbee game on his Ipad.

It’s fun having a 4-year old who is inquisitive. Oh wait…every 4-year old is inquisitive. Oh well.

I do love my Thatcher.

*

The article I was reading was “The Golden Fish: How God Woke Me Up in a Dream” by Eric Metaxes
http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2013/june/golden-fish-eric-metaxas.html

Chubby Digit Sundays

In Joplin, Missouri, we know tornadoes…and ice storms. Last week we had our third in the last 6 years.

The evening was cold and wet. It had been drizzling for the past ten hours and maintaining a steady temperature between 30 and 32 degrees. We were sitting in the living room interacting with our multitudinous digital devices when we heard a great crash.

“Whu THA?!” Chandler our two-year-old daughter says when she hears a sound she can’t identify.

Someone needs to investigate. The deck was so icy that Nicole didn’t want to walk out onto it, so she went upstairs, out onto the balcony, and observed verifiable truth that guardian angels directly influence women’s driving. If they didn’t, well, you know…

Nicole had originally parked my Yukon right where that tree fell. Fortunately, she came back out and moved it over a bit. Not a scratch!
Nicole had originally parked my Yukon right where that tree fell. Fortunately, she came back out and moved it over a bit. Not a scratch!

She had taken my SUV on a brief errand earlier in the day before it was too bad to drive and had parked it where she typically does her vehicle. After getting out, she reconsidered and moved the car over one parking space. The loud crash we had heard was the sound of two 25 foot ice laden sections of our beloved river birch trees falling precisely where Nicole had parked it before being prompted by the heavens to scoot it over a bit. It was so close, in fact, that the driver’s side door was pinned by the bent smaller branches.

The drizzling continued through most of the night. We awoke that Sunday morning with the glorious sun a-shining. It looked like the land of Narnia while in the midst of its perpetual state of winter. The deck was covered in ice and the birch branches were bent within two or three feet of the deck and looked like they would snap at any moment.

I looked over at my vehicle and noticed a slight, unnatural bend in the 70 foot sycamore just beyond it. Precarious was the word that came to mind. Between the fallen branches, and the ones weighed down by ice, there was no way I could move my car, but move it I must! I now knew my mission for the day. Let Operation Yukon Rescue begin!

First, Nicole and I decided it would be a good idea to try to lighten the load on the trees by melting some of the ice, thus giving the Yukon safe passage to the East. There are multiple ways to melt ice, and Nicole suggested spraying water on the branches with the hose, which had worked for her before. After locating a hose at the barn that wasn’t frozen, setting it up, ramming an oscillating sprinkler into the ground at an awkward angle, and turning the water on, Nicole and I sat back and watched.

“Is it melting the ice?” Nicole asked.

“I can’t tell,” I responded. “It’s pretty darn cold outside, you know. It might just be freezing on the branches, thus worsening the situation.” (That’s a retrospective paraphrase of my response, but the intent is accurate.)

We waited longer.

Now we weren’t just cold, but the introduction of water had created mud in the flower bed, and Nicole had gotten sprayed in the face twice by the sprinkler as she tried to set it up properly. What?! It was her idea, so I figured it would be best for her to attempt to execute it!

“CRACK!” went the section of the tree we were trying to salvage.

“Abort! Abort!” I ran to the faucet and turned off the sprinkler. It seemed we were indeed making the situation worse. Time for Plan B.

“Fire usually melts ice,” I thought. “And there is a fire pit on our deck. Why don’t I start a fire in the fire pit on the deck and see if it melts some ice off of the trees?” Sometimes we initially overlook the obvious.

Do you know what it’s like to fear triggering an avalanche? I do now! I spent half of the afternoon treading lightly on the ice covered deck, constantly tense as the entire canopy above me seemed as if it could collapse at any moment. Any time the breeze picked up, the branches above would crack and I would run for cover. If I were a smoker, I would have chain smoked all afternoon just to ease the tension.

Did I mention that it was cold?

I can handle working outside in the cold. I’m pretty rugged, you know. A friend of the elements, you might even say. I do have a weak spot, though…my Achilles heel in chilly climes. You get the point.

While the rest of my body remains quite warm, my fingers, regardless of how thick the gloves, pretty quickly get cold. I blow warm air into my gloves, shake my hands, stick them under my arm pits, (which does absolutely nothing!) anything I can think of to get Jack Frost to stop nipping at my, um, fingers. Nothing works! And shortly after they get cold, they just plum start to hurt. That’s when I typically throw in the towel. It’s why I’ve often mentioned that I wish I had chubby digits. A friend with whom I work outside has, well, chubbier digits than I. His fingers never get cold! I’ll be doing all the above mentioned things to warm mine up, and Captain Chubby Digits over there isn’t even wearing gloves!

I really wouldn’t want them all the time, though. I like the appearance of my fingers just fine. But it would be nice to have them on occasion. I’ll have to sit down with Santa next year and see what he can do.

I finally got the frozen logs burning well (after the 4th attempt) and set out to release my Yukon from its cage of icy limbs. I began with hand tools because both the kids were taking a nap, but soon reached a point where something more powerful was necessary.

The kids were up now, so I went down to the barn and grabbed the big daddy…the largest chain saw on the property…the Echo CS-600P. It had a new chain on it so it cut through the trees like butter. It was a little overkill, I suppose; but sometimes you gotta take control (or something along those lines). Anyway, it was one of the more enjoyable aspects of the afternoon.

I cut up the branches and dragged them into the grass, all the while glancing above me to make sure I wasn’t about to be crushed by falling branches. The car didn’t have a scratch. Thank you, Nicole’s automotive guardian angel!

We maneuvered my car out from under all of the trees, and by the time the evening was upon us, I had three roaring fire pits on the deck. The next morning, things were slightly better and by the following day, the sun was out and the ice falling off of the trees sounded like you were in a hail storm. No more major branches broke, fortunately, and although there was a good bit of cleanup after it was all over, it was not disastrous.

Hopefully we’re done with ice storms for a while, though.